The Lives of the Painters of Modern Life: The Careers of Artists in France from Impressionism to Cubism

David W. Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 6888
Issued in January 1999
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Modern painting began in France during the nineteenth century. Using transactions from art auctions for the work of 50 leading painters who worked in France during the first century of modern art, I estimate the relationship between the value of a painting and the artist's age at the date of its execution. The econometric estimates show that artists born before 1850 - including Manet, C‚zanne, and Degas - typically produced their most valuable work late in their careers, whereas artists born after 1850 - including Picasso, L‚ger, and Braque - were more likely to have done their most valuable work at early ages. Comparison of these results to evidence drawn from art history textbooks furthermore demonstrates that these artists' most valuable work has also been that most highly regarded by scholars. I argue that the change over time in the shape of these artists' age-price profiles was a result of changes in the nature of painting during the late nineteenth century, as painting increasingly became an activity in which innovation was a principal determinant of an artist's importance.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6888

Published: Galenson, David W. "The Careers Of Modern Artists," Journal of Cultural Economics, 2000, v24(2,May), 87-112.

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